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Intel's Wind River Claims Lead in Embedded Linux - InternetNews.
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Intel's Wind River Claims Lead in Embedded Linux

Intel's Wind River subsidiary is now the leader in embedded Linux, at least when it comes to revenues, according to the market analysis by VDC Research.

Wind River, which was acquired in June by Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) for $884 million, has more than 30 percent of the total market revenue for embedded Linux, VDC found.

Wind River's position comes as the company continues to grow its Linux efforts after entering the market in 2004. One of Wind River's principal competitors in the Linux space is embedded Linux pioneer MontaVista Linux, which sees the market as being about more than just total market revenues. Overall, both vendors see continued opportunities for the growth of embedded Linux especially in the current economy.

"Wind River is a public company so their revenues were common knowledge," Jim Ready, CTO and Co-founder of MontaVista. Told InternetNews.com. "However, the numbers were a little surprising in how they were reported. According to the report, MontaVista holds over 25 percent share of total embedded Linux revenue. It also says that the market is $126 million. We believe the total addressable market number is much larger, particularly in providing Linux commercialization services to the roll-your-own crowd."

Prior to being acquired by Intel, Wind River reported Linux revenues for its fiscal 2009 year (ended January 31, 2009) of over $65 million.

VDC Research was not immediately available for comment.

MontaVista's Ready however also took aim at how VDC measured the embedded Linux lead.

"It is also important to note that the report focused only on total revenue, rather than deployments, and revenue is only part of the story," Ready said.

VDC numbers aside, Wind River has made strides in Linux over the last five years according to Vincent Rerolle, vice president and general manager of the Linux product division at Wind River. Rerolle told InternetNews.com that he was happy more than surprised at the VDC positioning of Wind River.

Rerolle commented that Wind River entered the Linux space in 2004 at the request of its clients, who had been asking for Linux solutions. Wind River also offers a proprietary embedded operating system called VxWorks, which in some ways competes with Linux.

According to Rerolle, prior to 2004, Wind River had been worried about potentially cannibalizing its existing VxWorks business by going with Linux, but in the end realized that they had to offer Linux to be competitive.

"Our customers came to us and said there was a class of applications for which they would go with Linux no matter what," Rerolle said. "They told us that they thought we had what it takes to produce a commercial grade Linux and that we were basically stupid not to take advantage of the business opportunity."

VxWorks is still alive and growing at Wind River five years later and Rerolle noted that it's not an issue of open source religion when it comes to VxWorks versus Linux. In his view, VxWorks still fits a role in many deterministic, real-time embedded applications, though there is overlap in Linux and VxWorks capabilities.

More companies are now comfortable with choosing Linux, according to Rerolle and there are lots of applications that could go with either VxWorks or Linux. That said, he noted that companies that already have an existing investment in VxWorks might well find it to be easier or cheaper to stick with it.

Intel Ownership

With Intel now owning Wind River, the roadmap for Wind River's Linux isn't necessarily changing. Rerolle said that many of Wind River's big customers have been asking about how things might change under Intel ownership.

"We told them that it's a big acquisition for Intel," Rerolle said. "Our company strength is about offering amazing software on whatever hardware the biggest companies on the planet are using. The hardware can be Intel, Freescale, Texas Instruments or anyone else."

Rerolle added that messing up Wind River's existing capacity to service multiple hardware platforms wouldn't be a good thing and isn't happening.

Additionally Intel is keeping its hardware engineering teams separate from Wind River's software engineering.

"We are going to firewall our engineering teams," Rerolle said. "Intel is nervous that Intel engineering roadmaps could leak to the other guys too."

Competition

While Wind River and MontaVista both compete against each other, they also are both competing against home grown and in-house effort to build embedded Linux.

"In actuality, MontaVista's largest challenge in embedded Linux comes from developers that are looking to roll their own or use Linux bundled with the semiconductor distributions as opposed to any specific commercial embedded Linux vendor," MontaVista's Ready said.

Overall though, the need for commercial Linux support is what is helping to drive growth.

"Over the past five years, Linux has been rapidly displacing traditional RTOSes (Real Time Operating Systems) and becoming the OS of choice for embedded developers," Ready said. "Opportunities for commercial embedded Linux vendors are growing and the semiconductor vendors all offer various flavors of Linux technology as part of their hardware enablement. We see tremendous opportunities for growth in the coming years. In fact, we feel that embedded Linux has won this battle."